How To Train Your Dragon

Back when I was trying to sell kids’ books to publishers, waaaaay back in the ‘80s, the various publishers would send out rules of what not to bother sending. Tops on most of their lists? “DON’T SEND ANYTHING WITH DRAGONS.”

Apparently there was a glut.
I didn’t have anything with dragons but I sort of thought it was dickish.
Relevance to the movie How To Train Your Dragon? None, really, except that given this is based on a series of books released in the past decade, I guess the ban is up.
Which brings us to the latest venture from the team that brought you Lilo and Stitch. L&S is an underrated Disney film which managed to unselfconsciously break out of the mold of “young person doesn’t meet societal/parental expectations and successfully forges own way in world” that dominated their ‘toons since The Little Mermaid. It also used a lot of Elvis unironically.
This is the story of young Hiccup, a Norseman of some sort, who lives on an average Norseman island except for being plagued by dragons. Swarmed, even. So, the young of the village train to become dragonslayers.
Naturally, Hiccup’s not really up for that. (We wouldn’t have a children’s story if he embraced the slaughter of dragon’s wholeheartedly and was good at it, would we? Not these days!) He’s more of an inventor; and he invents, essentially, a ballista. He manages to hit a dragon—the particular type of dragon so fast and destructive that no one has ever even seen one—and no one believes him.
He stumbles upon the injured beast, though, and discovers something other than the completely unrepentant destroyer of Norse villages he’s been taught to believe. The subsequent relationship is…problematic.
This is a fast-paced, sometimes funny, nice-looking film. It walks the line between too cute, too much Kumbaya, and brutal fairly facilely. In that sense, much like Lilo & Stitch, where Stitch was both cute and a destructive monster, but far less cute. (There is a real villain in the peace, and it’s fairly unapologetic in its scariness.)
Jay Baruchel (best known to me as the skinny kid in Million Dollar Baby) plays the skinny Hiccup while America Ferrara plays his jealous peer, Astrid. Astrid is one of those now clichéd overachieving girls who just wants to kill some dragons and is increasingly pissed off by Hiccup’s strange increasing facility with them.
Supporting characters include Gerard Butler, as Hiccup’s predictably not-understanding father (speaking of clichés, didn’t we just see James Caan do this in Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs?); Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill (kinda sorta doing Jack Black) as the skinny and fat kid vikings—though at least they made Jonah Hill the skinny(-er) one and Mintz-Plasse the fat one; Kirsten Wiig as the twin of—
Wait. Do you care? Does anyone? Why do they keep putting celebrities in animated films when a professional voice actor is probably going to be better (and way cheaper)?
Are you people actually lining up to see How To Train Your Dragon because Gerard Butler was so hot in 300? What the hell is wrong with you?
Or is it just some Hollywood trend?
I hope it’s the latter. I get why actors like the voice gigs. No makeup, no costume, just hamming it up in front of a bunch of A/V geeks who are probably all starstruck.
Anyway, the movie was a hit with everyone, from the Old Man, to The Boy—who didn’t expect to like it—to both the Flower and the Barbarienne. And me. It’s a solid piece of work. Rewatchable. The Old Man objected to the cuteness of the main dragon, and I could see his point. The dragons were all a hair too cute for me.
Curiously, he preferred Shrek 4, but he’s a definite outlier in that regard.
Interesting side-note: We saw this back in mid-June at the bargain theater and it’s still playing there. That’s a good sign.

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